Saturday, December 18, 2010

Got My Free Chromium Laptop!!!

So I got my free Chromium Netbook from GOOGLE today! I was wondering what was UPS trying to deliver - I don't recall ordering anything! It was a very pleasant surprise and an excellent early Christmas present! Very Kewl! This post was written using the new chromium..

So how did I get to be so lucky? Well some time ago, I was looking for an alternative OS for no particular reason - I am a geek, what can I say? Anyway, as I was perusing through the list of open-source OSs, I came across Google's Chromium. I thought that it would be interesting to see if you had an OS that was the browser! I spend most of the time in the browser anyway so why not bypass everything else and go straight to the browser?I tried to download it but only the source-code was available The actual OS was not. So I signed up to get updates as to when it will be released. Months went by when I got an email from the Chromium team saying that since I signed up to get the updates, would I be interested in testing it out the new Chromium - in a brand new netbook provided by them! Of course, being that it was free, I signed up for it! There were a few questions but the last question asked why I deserved to get a free netbook...

well theres a lot of ins, a lot of outs, a lot of what have yous.. but I use google all the time. Not just the search - I use it for everything. I am using it right now! Anyway, I responded and said I was cool whether they send me one or not but would like to thank Google anyway for the many services I use and like most google users, take for granted. Thank you Google!!

Now that we got that out of the way, how's the new netbook? First impression - well, its black, has no markings, no logos, no nothing. Just a screen, a keyboard, a built-in webcam, a battery and a "Giant" touchpad. Other than that, there is nothing else on it I mean nothing.. no logos, no warnings... its like the hardware version of the google homepage..

Top View

Keyboad and giant touchpad

I wish the keyboard would lit if its dark so you can use it in low light

Top View when open

Bottom View

This thing is freaky fast!! If you want to get online - just online, update your facebook, submit a tweet or whatever it is that you do online in an instant, this is your answer. I mean you open the thing and its there. You are online.. I am sure Ill find things I don't like about it but so far, I am digging their style dude! Awesome!!! Thank you once again Google!!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Google Schmoogle Part 2

So I got a phone call from a "Google Representative" at work today. Here's how it went

GR: Can I speak to (my predecessor's name)?
Me: I am sorry but he is no longer with the company.
GR: Well can I speak to his replacement? (in a commanding tone)
Me: I am the replacement - how can I help you.
GR: Oh my name is such and such and I am from Google. I NEED your email address so I can send you some PDFs.
Me: Ok.. uhmmmm.. What are the PDFs about?
GR: Oh I am sorry, my name is such and such and I am from GOOGLE (like I didn't heard the last time).  I NEEEED your email address so I can send you information about Google's Cloud Services
Me: (irritated at the arrogance at this point).. What if I don't want it?
GR: OH... uhmmmmm.. (amazed that I asked that question - cant believe I would say NO to GOOGLE) well its up to you... if you dont want it
Me: Ok then.. thanks??

She then hanged up the phone without saying goodbye.. Really?? That's your sales pitch?? Are they this arrogant now?? Oh NO!!  my life is ruined now because I am not going to get the PDFs about Google Cloud services! C'mon man!! Google you need to train your Sales Rep better! Understand that just because your GOOGLE doesn't mean we should be begging to BUY your service..

Google Schoomgle!!

I know Google has the "Don't Be Evil" mantra but I am starting to think that Steve Jobs might have a point about all that being a bunch of baloney! Don't get me wrong, I still like Google and most of the services it offers but my last experience with Google does not exactly translate to "not being evil".

On my previous blog I talked about a new affiliate web store I just created http://theperfectcup.tunblebid.com. Like everyone else on the internet, I am an amazon affiliate.  I wanted to promote a niche product - single brew coffee maker. I used a software called Associate-O-Matic to create the links and the shopping cart for the site so I don't have to program it by hand. So I spend the time integrating it with Joomla so I can create a better landing page and recommend to users which brands of single coffee makers might be right for them. It took quite an effort but its a really slick landing page if I may say so myself! So I did the usual, submit my site, put google analytics and finally advertise the site in AdWords. Everything was going well when all of a sudden, I get an email that my ads are in violation of the Terms and Conditions of AdWords! WTF!!!! So I read the Terms and Conditions and since they really didnt't say what I violated, so I guessed. One of the items they frown upon in there was framing and mirroring sites. Well, I have that, so I emailed them about it and told them what I was trying to do. They did reply very promptly. They said that my ad was not flagged due to the frames on the site but because of the "bridging" whatever the heck that means. However, upon careful review, they no longer see the violation and would recommend to the "specialists" so they can approve my ad. First, I thought I contacted a specialist - now apparently there is a specialist to the specialist. Now I wonder how deep the rabbit hole of "specialists" go??

Anyway - I got an email the next day from adwords and according to the specialist of the specialist, my site is still in violation of the bridging policy because the checkout goes to amazon??? Really??? Cmon man!!!! That's what an affiliate store is. They did offer suggestions on how to "improve" my site by adding more references, comparisons, etc... so I can "offer" more to the end user.. Really??? well first of all, thats what I thought I did and second of all, and in the words of the dude, "who the fuck are you man?" Me, personally, I like the simple stuff when shopping for a product online. A brief description, some reviews and I buy it if I like it. Too much info and I end up not buying it.. That's just EVIL man!!! Now you want to tell people what they should and should not like!! Who died and made you gods? Oh I love this part - they put a clause in there "Google can disapprove your ads for any or no reason" wow so apparently they can disable ads because my eyes are brown. I guess if you're that big and have virtual monopoly on the search engine market, you can't help it..

From their point of view though, its their business and they can run it how they like it. If I happen to not like it, then I could fuck off.. and go somewhere else. Its not like their twisting my arm and advertise with them..

Well it sucks that I can't advertise in adwords and maybe I'm just sour graping but overall I still like to drink the Google Kool-Aid. However, I do believe that Steve Jobs has a point. Like he said in one of his speeches, the dots will connect somehow - well at least for them that is.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Oh boy!! Tough times lately!

I am having  a bad month so far but the good news is that I am learning a lot. First the bad part - my adsense account got disabled. Google says my site poses a risk for "invalid" clicks so they disabled it. I also learned that your Google Affiliate Network account (GAN) is tied with your adsense account. So no adsense, no GAN! Sucks! I could appeal my account but what's the point? I was not going to find my bliss through adsense and the effort required to appeal my account didn't sound that appealing - so moving on..

So - I tried another route - setup an affiliate e-commerce site. However, I did not want to setup those links myself. I wanted an "easy button" so I looked for ready-made software that can do this. Luckily for me there is a ton out there. Unluckily for me, there is a ton out there and choosing the right one became a task. I finally decided on one that seemed to have the best potential - Associate-o-Matic (AOM). AOM had the shopping cart feature I like and everything else with one exception. If you want a "mall" type site, AOM is great for that and you can have an affiliate web store in just a few clicks. If you want a customized site with your own landing page, it is a manual HTML process. I wanted a niche product, display something about that product (reviews) and show the top 5 recommended or best-selling and then show them the "mall" site. I had this great idea to integrate it with Joomla! Create the landing page and all other pages (about, contact, etc) using Joomla and take advantage of the design as well as other features in Joomla and then have the "mall" site embedded in one of the pages.

Several problems already surfaced. Embedding the "mall" site was easy - however once the user clicks on checkout, the iframe is redirected to amazon but the parent frame is still my site. What I wanted to do was if they click on checkout, the user should be directed to Amazon.com completely! This was a very difficult problem to solve and it took me 3 weeks to finally figure it out. AOM scripts are encrypted and therefore cannot be edited. Large part of the reason why I wasn't able to post new blogs is trying to figure out how I can do this. I tried all sorts of stuff! Server-side with PHP, syncing the SEESION variables, setting COOKIES, etc! Finally, the answer actually was a lot simpler to implement. Like most things, getting there was the hard part! I finally got the integration between Joomla and AOM. I created what I thought was a good landing page and embedded the "mall" site in there. I used Javascript - client side - to affect the behavior of the links within the iframe. Site is finally ready for SEM. The site is about single coffee makers and here is the site. http://theperfectcup.tumblebid.com. If you want to see how the full integration works, just go to the site and go the "mall" site (clue - the menu button says "Shop"). Right-click and choose view-source. You should see the javascript in there. If you are looking to do the same thing, there it is, just edit a few things and you should be on your way. It took me several weeks to get this done - if you use it, this should save you some time. So your welcome!

Anyway, it might not do you any good anyway and here's why. I setup a google adwords ad for it. I thought everything was going well when I got an email stating that my ad violated the "landing page policy". Apparently, the use of iframes is frowned upon by google adwords! All that freaking effort and I can't use adwords to promote my affiliate store! FUCK!!!!!

I don't know what to do now. I am not sure if I just leave the site the way it is or redesign it again. I wanted to use this format as a template for all the other niche products I wanted to promote. Integrating AOM with Joomla was going to be my way of setting up stores very easily and quickly. If I can't promote it and drive traffic there, it's useless!

So shitty month! but I learned a lot about PHP and Javascript fucking around with this shit. In the end, it might be moot but if all else fails, at least I now know that you can't use iframes and I know more about programming PHP and Javascript. I guess I am seeing the glass half-full but still - its been a shitty month!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

SEO - Sitemaps - Free Sitemap Validator - You already have it!

In case you didn't know already, sitemaps are very important to SEO strategy. Keeping your site updated and telling the search engines about those changes are essential. Good news is generating sitemaps is a breeze. There are thousands of free tools out there - just google sitemap generator. Open Sitemap generator is one of those tools and as the name suggest is open-source. This can be very challenging as your website grows and you start to get hundreds if not thousands of links. In my case, I run http://www.put3.com  which is a classified ads website. It is starting to grow and the links are starting to pile up. I don't want to run a tool manually so I can update google about the changes.

Luckily for me, automation is built-in to open-classifieds! Open-classifieds uses a script from smart-consulting  which is also open-source. This script allows open-classifieds to generate sitemaps and then submit it to google! Sweet!! However, nothing really comes easy. Sitemaps have to follow strict rules and if you don't, your sitemap becomes invalid and your google webmaster stats show that you have an error and no URLs being indexed which is probably not true but do you really want to take the chance? The error says to validate the sitemap first prior to re-submitting. Great - easy enough but how the heck do you validate? So I googled it an found numerous sites about validating your sitemap but I didn't find any site that would help me identify where the problems are and I know there was more than one. The good ones are not free so fuck them. I have to figure this out some other way.

After some research into this, sitemaps have to be UTF-8 compliant. I have no idea what that means. As far as I was concerned at the time, it stood for Ur Totally Fucked! - 8 times!! After analyzing the error some more,  I kinda figured that the character " ; " (dot-comma - I don't know what its really called) is frowned upon by this UTF shit. The problem is really the links on the website are from the titles of the posting from the users. When they put a dash, the script converts it to a URL and converts the dash to a "ndash;" hence sitemap goes down! It's easy enough to edit the sitemap and search and replace those ";" using a text editor but the problem with that is that the next sitemap generated will have errors again. A more permanent fix is needed. Also, how do you know if that is the only thing causing the error? After reading more stuff about it, I found out that Internet Explorer is great at this. I opened my sitemap using IE and sure enough, it pointed to the errors. I was then able to identify ALL the errors and make the corrections in the database. Once those corrections were made, the script was able to create the UTF compliant XML links and IE saved the day!

There you go. If you are looking for a FREE sitemap validator, look no further than your desktop/laptop! - that is if you are using Windows of course. If you are on a MAC, well then UTF-8... ;-)